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When To Disregard the OEM (Yes, we said it!)

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

What? Ignore the Manufacturer? Disregard compliance and not get reimbursed for marketing efforts? Are we insane?

We promise we’re not suggesting to throw away money, or suggesting you get in trouble with the manufacturer. We ARE recommending strategically determining when to stick to the speed limit and when to go five over.

Keep an eye on your marketing funds.

This one is for the Ford dealers out there. Take a look at your monthly marketing budget. Do you have a higher marketing spend than available co-op dollars? Most dealerships do and should. This gives you an opportunity to color outside of the lines a bit. Make sure a portion of your marketing is compliant so you can apply for reimbursement for those dollars, but your remaining marketing budget can go toward running that in-your-face sales message you’ve been thinking about.

Granted, this strategy only works for manufacturers that do not have strike systems (we’re looking at you Nissan, INFINITI, VW, Cadillac…)  if you’re not in a strike system, recognizing you have some room creatively can open up opportunities.

Branching Away from Manufacturer Events 

Nissan and Ford dealers, this one’s for you. Tying into sales events promoted by the manufacturer is a great way to leverage recognition and buying power without shelling out a ton of dough. However, there are times where you want to stand out from the crowd, too. While I wouldn’t recommend straying from the Year End Sales Event message (let’s be real, manufacturers put A LOT of money into their year-end campaigns), creating your own sale event message can go a long way towards differentiating your dealership from the rest; especially if it becomes a yearly thing.

Been in the business awhile? Have an anniversary celebration and remind the market why people continue to choose your dealership.

Not sure how to bridge the gap between summer and fall? Have a fall event and let your customers know the summer may be ending, but the savings aren’t!

Want to highlight taking trades to boost used inventory and drive sales? Host a yearly ‘Trade-A-Thon’!

If you’ve read our recent blog, Marketing Strategies for Dealerships Looking to Grow, we recommended that growing dealerships utilize manufacturer events. This is still true. You can tie-in to the manufacturer theme, however you should mix it up a bit (“Last year’s Year End Sales Event was INCREDIBLE, but this year is going to be EVEN BETTER.” or maybe “The Year End Sales Event is BIGGER and BETTER at XYZ Motors!”) The key is to differentiate yourself from other dealerships, while still utilizing the weight of the manufacturer to your advantage.

Chat with your advertising agency (If you don’t have one, may I recommend CBC?). They should have a good pulse on what’s coming down the runway for events and messaging, and on what has worked for their clients in the past.

Marketing Strategy 

Many OEMs want you to utilize their pre-approved vendors when it comes to your marketing efforts (Stellantis and GM, for example.) You have a small selection of ‘certified’ businesses, servicing all of your competition and not surprisingly delivering cookie-cutter service. While cookies are great, basic stamped–out ad campaigns are not. I don’t want you to think I’m completely disregarding the need for dealerships to be reimbursed for their marketing efforts. It’s a vital part of many dealerships’ bottom lines. However, if you’ve ever felt like your creative, SEM campaigns, etc. aren’t custom-tailored to you or your brand, I encourage you to look at working with an independent agency well versed in advertising for all brands; one that specifically creates campaigns based on your dealership’s approach, personality, and goals.

Marketing Used Vehicles 

Because manufacturer dollars focus solely on new vehicles, all too frequently dealerships let their used vehicle marketing efforts fall by the wayside. As you undoubtedly know, pre-owned vehicles are essential to dealership grosses, are a great way to bring unique consumers to your dealership and are also a great way to upsell customers to a new vehicle. Knowing all this, why wouldn’t you support used vehicles as much as your new vehicles? If you’re only bringing in leads for half of your inventory, you’re doing yourself a disservice. 

Ultimately, this goes back to our recommendation to spend beyond your compliance provided funds. That’s not just an employee of an agency talking. Don’t limit yourself by what the manufacturer gives you, or in this case, doesn’t give you. If you’re not sure what you should be spending to support your entire inventory, an agency like CBC can help you determine a budget that is comfortable for your dealership, and helps you grow.

Let’s have a conversation!

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